Berry Long Cake from Vintage Cakes (recipe)
It was in her Portland, Oregon baking supply shop Sweet Wares where Julie Richardson, author of Vintage Cakes and coauthor of Rustic Fruit Desserts, inherited crates of old baking books–some dating back to the 1920s. In her small-batch bakery Baker & Spice and her home kitchen, Julie reinvented these old-fashioned recipes to create timeless recipes for today’s sweet tooth.
Each dreamy, classic cake in Vintage Cakes (Ten Speed Press, July 2012) is bursting with nostalgia and charm, so we couldn’t wait to ask Julie a few questions.
What was the first cake you ever baked, and how’d it turn out? Do you still bake it?
My first cake made it into the book: my Grammy’s chocolate cake. It’s a foolproof beginner cake but I’m pretty sure I forgot to grease the pan. I still bake it (although I gave it a little make-over). It’s my dad’s favorite and we always celebrate with it for his birthday, usually accompanied by a large scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Kentucky Bourbon Cake
If you could only eat one cake from Vintage Cakes for eternity, which would it be?
Kentucky Bourbon Cake: it can take on so many great cake roles… serve it with a cup of strong coffee or tea and it’s a simple afternoon bite, or top it with berries and whipped cream for an elegant dessert, or pack it up and send it along on a picnic. It has so much character; it’s incredibly moist, a wee bit boozy and oh so buttery!
What’s the best piece of advice you ever got about baking?
Always set your timer!
Flipping through the first copies of the book, every person in the office excitedly found a recipe that was nostalgic to them in some way. How did you collect the original recipes?
The collection came from all the corners of my world. A big portion was found in the remnants of the bakery that inhabited the space where Baker & Spice now resides. I rifled through quite a few old journals and old recipe booklets that ingredient manufacturers used to send out to encourage bakeries to use their products. But I would mostly just use the recipe names as a base point and then create a cake around that. (Goober Cake and Old Vermont Burnt Sugar cake are two that come to mind.) And once the word got out about my project, I was blessed with recipe cards from grandmas everywhere.
While our past holds many treasures that would make Betty Crocker proud, are there some cooking ingredients and techniques you think are better left behind?
I was happy to rid the recipes of any Crisco, Primex, Sweetex and margarine! I replaced the processed fats with good old-fashioned butter for the yummiest flavor and canola oil for tenderizing the crumb and adding moistness to the cake.
Your love of vintage gems doesn’t stop at cakes. What other pieces of our past do you love to collect or stumble upon?
Oh, my husband would have a lot to say about this question! It goes as follows: Bakelite angel food cake cutters; cake plates of all shapes, ages, colors and sizes; Fenton hobnail milk glass; aluminum cake keepers; Champagne coupes; jadeite pottery; and a small collection of Streamliner China from the 30’s… just to name a few.
What three pieces of equipment do you find essential to baking?
My hands, my nose, and a good sturdy whisk.
And lastly, why do we have such a love affair with cake?
We all have a cake that brings up joyful memories from our past. Maybe it was a cake that we always asked for on our birthday celebration, or the one that was always sitting atop grandma’s kitchen counter when you would arrive for a visit, or maybe it’s the slice of cake you shared with your best friend while you were traveling together in a foreign country. Just ask someone if they have a cake they remember from their past and watch as a whole happy conversation ensues… it’s lovely to observe.
Rhubarb Pudding Cake